On March 25, 2022, the Delhi High Court reserved its judgment on a plea filed by Community Party of India leader Brinda Karat and KM Tiwari in a case related to alleged hate speeches made by Union Minister Anurag Thakur and MP Parvesh Verma in connection with the North East Delhi communal violence of February 2020.
But what was most shocking was an alleged remark by Justice Chandra Dhari Singh where, according to the Indian Express, he observed that if something is said with a smile, then there is no criminality but if something is said offensively, then there may be criminality.
The said petition was filed against a lower court order in which declined the prayer for registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma for their alleged hate speech.
Following is a thread of shocking statements reportedly made by Justice Chandra Dhari Singh:
Questioning the criminality attached to the alleged hate speech, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh reportedly asked,”Was the speech made in front of agitation point? That is why I am saying, Ye log, indicate to whom? Not for any particular community. Ye log can be anybody. How you can translate or think about this? There is no direct instigation. I am not on the point what it was meant for because we are in this writ petition is dealing only with legal issue.” Adding to this, he asked, “Where is the communal intent in that speech?”
Additionally, the Court reportedly said, “Was that an election speech or speech during ordinary time? Because if any speech is given during election time then it’s a different time, if you’re giving a speech in ordinary course, then you’re instigating something. In the election speech, so many things are said by the politicians to politicians and that is also a wrong thing. But I have to see the criminality of the act. If you’re saying something with a smile then there is no criminality, if you’re saying something offensive then definitely. You have to check and balance. Otherwise, I think 1,000 FIRs may be lodged against all politicians during elections.”
In another shocking remark, the court reportedly said,“You are also adjudicating the right to speech and all these things, lot of things against two individuals or group of individuals, that is a different thing. But when and what time, that was delivered and what was the intention. Only intention to win the election or intention to instigate the public to do the crime both are different things. Then you have to see themens rea.”
In what could be viewed by some as a demonstration of possible bias towards the accused BJP leaders, Justice Singh reportedly said,”I am not saying anything. Only I’m saying, sometimes people say something. I’m not on this case but general for better adjudication of this case. If you are saying something, suppose you’ve said something only for creatingmahauland all these things, I think mens rea because political parties say something else other political parties say something different. Everybody is addressing their constituencies.”
The plea refers to the rally in Delhi where Anurag Thakur was seen and heard chanting the communally charged slogan “Deshkegaddaron ko, golimaaron s**lon ko” on January 27, 2020. It also refers to another speech made by Parvesh Verma dated January 27-28, 2020, while campaigning for Bhartiya Janata Party and subsequently in an interview given to ANI. As per Scroll, Parvesh Verma was also spreading hate by stating that lakhs of protestors who have gathered at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh would “rape their sisters and daughters and kill them.”
The said speeches were made ahead of the 2020 Delhi Assembly elections following which riots had broken out in North East Delhi in February, where 53 people died and hundreds were injured, reported Scroll.
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